Stone Mountain Summit
Stone Mountain, Georgia is a quartz monzonite dome monadnock (a single mountain that rises out of a relatively flat plain). The mountain is the site of some recent controversy over the massive bas relief carved into the north face of the mountain that memorializes the Confederacy.
Also of controversy is the fact that the second iteration of the Ku Klux Klan was born at Stone Mountain and the Klan was granted perpetual access to the mountain by previous owners of the site. Today the mountain and park are owned by the State of Georgia but operated by a private, for profit company.
Stone Mountain is a dome of quartz monzonite that was formed by the upwelling of magma through the earth's crust during the formation of the Blue Ridge Mountains around 300-350 million years ago. It sits about 825 feet (251 m) above the surrounding area which is mostly rolling hills. On a clear day (as in these shots) one can see the Kennesaw Mountain to the north, the skyscrapers of Atlanta to the west, and even the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains to the far north.
The easiest climb to the top of Stone Mountain is from the west which is gently sloped. Alternatively one can ride the ski lift to the top as I did. In the image above the Memorial Hall at the top of a small hill over the gardens that memorialize each of the 13 states of the Confederacy is kind of overwhelmed by an artificial snow slide ride that sits between the two sides of the Memorial Gardens.
Below, the largest bas relief sculpture in the world, the Confederate Memorial carving depicts three Confederate leaders of the Civil War, President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson (and their favorite horses, "Blackjack," "Traveller," and "Little Sorrel," respectively).
At the top of the mountain the landscape is bare rock and rock pools. To the west are the skyscrapers of Atlanta.
Below: Holding Atlanta in my hand. The low winter sun is wicked bright atop the mountain on a cloudless day.
On winter days the sun barely makes it to 33° above the southern and western horizons so the sun is always in one's eyes.
Below, at the summit, 1,686 feet above sea level (514 m) one can see for many miles on a clear day. Behind me, to the north, is Kennesaw Mountain and the Appalachians.
I was wearing dress shoes on this recent afternoon so I decided to ride the ski lift up and walk down. The walk down is gradually sloped enough that I had no trouble in good shoes.
About half way down the western side of the mountain is another memorial to the Confederacy, this one consisting of various flags including the Stars & Bars.
At the base of the mountain one enters a mixed deciduous forest which was recently ablaze with color. There is a village of Made-in-China crap stores that is converted into a Christmas-themed destination in winter.
Go before the "Christmas Village" opens, or after, and avoid the ridiculously expensive entry fees. There is no avoiding the $15 to park unless you've got the stamina to walk in several miles from the nearest outside-the-park parking area.
The bas relief Confederate Memorial measures about 1.57 acres (6,400 square meters), or just a bit smaller than two football fields. The carving of the three men and their horses towers 400 feet (120 m) above the ground, measures 76 by 158 feet (23 by 48 m), and is recessed 42 feet (13 m) into the mountain.
In 2015 as controversy grew over memorials to the Confederacy across the south it was proposed that this sculpture be blasted off of Stone Mountain. While the proposals are still out there it is unlikely that any such destruction of the memorial will occur anytime soon as it would require approval by the Georgia State Legislature.
Below, a giant ball of mistletoe awaits Christmas Village visitors.
I didn't see anything extraordinary about the Christmas Village. The buildings are completely covered with lights, which is interesting, but the stuff sold inside is nothing special, especially considering all the history and natural beauty available steps away on the mountain.
Outside of the park one quickly encounters Atlanta's notoriously bad traffic, anytime of day.